This exquisitely detailed jewel is really a wonder, in several ways. For one thing, you seldom see a bar brooch that can also be worn as a necklace pendant on a chain or ribbon. Also rare are its size -- fully 2.5 inches wide -- and its findings indicative of very great age. The early safety pin-clasp is of a type introduced in the 1850s and the old T-hinge is the sort that was replaced by the tube style around 1870.
Thus, this piece is far older than most bar-shaped brooches, most likely dating from the 1860s, when the form was still being defined. It first came into vogue after the Prince of Wales married Alexandra of Denmark in 1863. She pinned her collars high (or wore choker necklaces) to hide a small scar on her throat and, since she was the trend-setting "Di" of her day, fashionable women rushed to emulate her style.
The popularity of black enamelwork was, of course, a nod to another royal: Queen Victoria, a widow in permanent mourning after 1861. Here its look is lively, not morose: highlighting a festive bunch of snowdrops, spring's first flowers, and an exceedingly elaborate tracery of vines and stylized leaves.
The condition of the jewel is lovely; I see no wear at all to the enamelwork and you have to search with a loupe to find any wear, except to the findings. The pin was crafted in two parts, with the beautifully ornamented top wrapped over the back, and most wear is at that seam. Even the edges are decorated; a very great deal of work went into this jewel.
In the absence of markings, I can't be sure whether the top is of gold or rolled gold (so thickly surfaced that it will essentially never wear out). Either way, it would probably test 9k, and applying files and acids to such a nice piece would be a sacrilege. The back seems to be heavily gilded. Provenance is a California estate.
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